Napa’s Duckhorn Wine Company is making a big move in Chardonnay, buying fellow California winery Sonoma-Cutrer from spirits giant Brown-Forman for $400 million in a combination of stock and cash. The deal gives Brown-Forman a 21.5 percent stake in Duckhorn.
Sonoma-Cutrer is known for Chardonnay ranging from $20 to $50 per bottle. The company owns six estate vineyards spanning 1,121 acres in both the Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast appellations.
Duckhorn executives said in an announcement that the move improves its position as “a leading luxury wine company in the U.S., while rounding out its portfolio by significantly elevating the company’s position within Chardonnay.” Sonoma-Cutrer had sales of $84 million in the 12 months through July. According to Impact Databank, a sister publication of Wine Spectator, Sonoma-Cutrer sold 543,000 cases last year, up 17 percent from the previous year, placing it among the fastest growing wine brands in the U.S. market.
“Sonoma-Cutrer is among the fastest-growing major brands in the luxury Chardonnay category,” said Deirdre Mahlan, Duckhorn’s interim president, CEO and chairperson. “We see opportunity to further accelerate that growth and enhance operating margins of the combined business. This transaction expands our presence and visibility, diversifies our portfolio of luxury American winery brands, and dramatically increases our position in the luxury Chardonnay category.”
Under the terms of the deal, Brown-Forman will receive 31.5 million shares of Duckhorn’s common stock, valued at approximately $350 million, as well as $50 million in cash, and will nominate two directors to Duckhorn’s board.
“We believe The Duckhorn Portfolio provides the capabilities, expertise, and focus to take the Sonoma-Cutrer wines to the next level,” said Brown-Forman president and CEO Lawson Whiting. “The Duckhorn Portfolio has some of the world’s most-respected luxury wine brands and Brown-Forman looks forward to participating in their future growth through a minority equity stake and board membership.”
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